Anthusa (c. 324/334–?)
Anthusa (c. 324/334–?)
Mother of John Chrysostom, the Father of the Eastern Church. Born in 324 or 334; death date unknown; married Secundus (a high-ranking military officer in the Roman army of Syria), around 343; children: John Chrysostom (c. 344/354–407).
Anthusa takes her place in history as a young widow whose son John would become the Father of the Eastern Church and patriarch of Constantinople. She nurtured his Christian character, provided his classical education, and molded him into the man who would become one of the great reformers and ascetics in the church. So renowned would John become for his preaching that he would earn the name Chrysostom, meaning "Golden-Mouthed."
A contemporary of Nonna (329?–374), Anthusa was a resident of Antioch, one of the four chief cities of the Roman Empire. Founded in 300 bce and predominantly Greek in influence, the city had been visited by Christian missionaries quite early. By the 4th century, when Anthusa gave birth to her son, the city's population of 150,000 to 300,000 was composed of pagan, Jewish, and Christian communities.
Anthusa was the widow of Secundus, a high-ranking military officer in the Roman army of Syria. Her husband died when she was 20, shortly after the birth of her son, and she never remarried. Although she had misgivings about bringing her son up amid the corruption of Antioch, she had faith in God's support and found great joy in seeing her husband's image reproduced in her child.
Resolute in her Christian piety, Anthusa tended to her son's religious education, acquainting him with the Scriptures and teaching him to love the Bible. John credited his mother's early influence with providing his "enthusiasm for the good, his moral energy, his aversion to ostentation, his zeal for justice and truth and his steadfast faith."
Anthusa used her considerable wealth to pay for John's law education, sending him to study with the celebrated orator Libanius. She later encouraged him to study theology under the noted Diodore of Tarsus, who started him on his career as a preacher and expositor of the Bible. Although John reveled in his classical education, he "drank still more deeply of the things of the spirit from his mother at home."
After completing his education, John embarked on the practice of law. Although he attracted wide attention and could have had a brilliant career as a lawyer, he disapproved of the "fraud and avarice" he saw practiced by the businessmen in Antioch. He withdrew from all activities, fasted, and undertook a life of study and prayer. When he wanted to remove himself still further to a remote hermitage of monks in Syria, his mother pleaded with him not to leave her alone: "Wait for my death—perhaps I shall soon be gone! When you have committed my body to the ground, and mingled my bones with your father's bones, then you will be free to embark on any sea you please."
Honoring his mother's wishes, John stayed in her home until she died. Throughout his life, he remained an impassioned advocate of the church, defending the deity of Christ. His uncompromising reforms, however, brought him into conflict with authorities and caused his eventual exile, where he died a "martyr of the pulpit."
Becknell, Branan. "John Chrysostom," in Historic World Leaders. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1994.
Deen, Edith. Great Women of the Christian Faith. NY: Harper & Row, 1959.
Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts